As cannabis becomes a mainstream consumer product, the still young legal framework surrounding its use can bring serious consequences at the workplace.
Although more than 30 states allow for some form of legal marijuana, only a third of them offer a comprehensive set of policies to protect users from strict anti-drug programs. Yes, even if adult use or medical cannabis is legal in your state, you can still lose your job if you test positive for THC.
There’s a growing need to develop policies that protect medical marijuana users from getting fired, and prevent discrimination against employees who choose to indulge in legal recreational consumption outside the workplace.
While Canada has released an official guide to orient employers on marijuana use at work, the US Federal Ban on the plant has not yet allowed for this type of measure — which in turn has led to serious controversies around the country. Miami, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Delaware are just some examples of states that have seen cases as recently as the past year, in which people were fired for using cannabis under completely legal circumstances.
So, while civil rights crusaders continue to fight for policies that protect cannabis consumers' rights at work, we're taking the discussion one step further to ask ourselves, which are the scenarios, professions and work environments where being high on the job should not only be allowed, but encouraged?
Behind the Smoke Curtain
Wick and Mortar is a Seattle-based branding agency focused on building brand identities for cannabusiness. The company has an open-smoke policy, where any worker can use their prefered method of consumption openly and on-site. “I have a dab brick sitting next to me on my desk," CEO Jared Mirsky told Civilized. "I don’t mind anyone coming over and grabbing some."
Yet, Mirsky explained that he only allows this behavior because he knows his employees very well. “I’m very selective when I hire the people who I bring on," he said. "Everyone I have on my team is high-level and they’re very well aware of the company culture that I’ve created. So if I’m going to allow that, I want to make sure that anyone on my team is responsible enough, and has the business acumen to be professional, and know when they can and shouldn't."
The agency hires a 15-person full-time staff, and has been around for more than 10 years. But to this day, Mirsky says he still sees prejudice in professional culture against cannabis in the workplace, despite the success of 420-friendly companies. “How can anyone see our success and possibly say that cannabis is preventing us from doing any better of a job that what we’ve been doing?”
As a brand, Wick and Mortar values being a high-functioning cannabis-consuming company, especially since this trait is key to relating to their clients. “We even toyed around with the idea of consuming specific strains for specific clients, and dedicating a strain for each project,” said Mirsky.
Manuel de Andrés, owner of award-winning music production company Papa Music, sees his company's success as proof of the positive role cannabis has played in his employees' daily routine. “My clients and business partners know me and know the quality of the work that we do," he said. "That allows me to light up and have the confidence that I’m not being under scrutiny while I do my job."
De Andrés is a lifelong cannabis consumer, as well as a double Cannabis-Cup winner (for his homegrown outdoor crops in Uruguay), and claims he chose his lifestyle and work environment to accommodate his regular use. As a sound designer and lead engineer for hundreds of commercials and feature films, he says that throughout his entire career, cannabis has been a "major help in boosting creativity, helping me get in ‘the zone,' [and] keeping a level head on occasions of much stress."
Expanding One’s Creativity
The definition of a "creative job" is subject to heavy debate. Most of us might be accustomed to thinking of creatives as working at ad agencies and film studios, while the average joe sits at a dull desk, sipping filtered coffee while going through messy piles of paper files.
Although the practice of using cannabis at work is mostly found today among cannabis businesses and creative environments, it’s safe to say that the anecdotal evidence being gathered by these companies could soon benefit other “more regular” businesses, as well.
“Everyone is creative in some way, and creative skills can be learned and enhanced," legendary publicist Alex Osborn stated in the 1940s while developing his "Creative Problem Solving (CPS) process." It’s sometimes easy to forget that creativity is a natural ability shared by all humans, and an integral tool in problem solving, critical thinking, and conceptualization.
The CPS process can be applied to all aspects of life, and that includes regular jobs normally viewed as “non creative”: Lawyers need to find creative ways to present their evidence in court. Physicians need to use all their knowledge creatively to come up with diagnoses that don’t fit text book ailments. Accountants must use their creative minds to develop solutions that save money for their company. Anytime someone at work comes up with a solution that is not specified in their job manual, they’re being creative — and THC can play a major role in that scenario.
Many studies have found a strong relationship between getting high and getting creative. And while scientific evidence is still not conclusive, real-life experiences can bring us a step closer to getting the "cannabis in the office" discussion fired up.
The Social Lubricant at Work
As well as helping achieve better creative states, leaders of companies currently applying THC-rich cannabis to their daily routines have extolled the plant’s potential in smoothing out the social intricacies commonly found in work relations.
“It certainly calms down the stress of owning a business,” says Ryan Michael, COO and owner of Kindtyme, a Portland-based marketing, media, and design agency that specializes in the cannabis industry. “Most of our clients — they all smoke, and we know they smoke, and they know we smoke, so when they come in, we sit down, and we smoke a joint together. It’s like we’re instantly friends. We both have this big thing in common that we can just bond over immediately, and it makes both of us feel so much more comfortable to start working together”.
In a conversation with Michael and marketing director Bridget Renee, the company leaders described the workplace as a "familiar" environment and gave special praise to cannabis’ role in fostering that: “Every single one of us is a daily user, and there’s always the social aspect to it," said Ryan Michael. "Smoking is a social activity, so having that keeps us talking to each other all the time. It makes us all socially collaborative.”
Michael also underlined how cannabis allows the team to focus on work and get things done. “It really helps people dial in and forget the world outside," he said. "People talk about tunnel vision with cannabis, and I think that definitely happens with creativity. You get so focused on what you’re working on, everything else kind of melts away.”
This company culture has become so popular amongst Kindtyme employees, that the managers even decided to make free cannabis a company perk, providing vape pens to all employees as a monthly benefit.
Better Weed, Better Management
The benefits of being relaxed and comfortable in the workplace bring special rewards to those working in management positions. As Jared Mirsky puts it, "You just get far more relatable and you can be goofy and silly. It allows you to really be you."
This is an advantage when dealing with difficult clients, but also when having to lead a team of people. “It’s such an icebreaker to be able to walk over to someone’s desk, and maybe you have to have a difficult conversation with them about a project," says Michael. "Say, 'Hey, let’s go smoke and talk about this.'”
Mike Hornbeck is the creative director and owner of Denver-based full-service marketing agency Soapoint, and its cannabis subsidiary, HiLife Creative. Hornbeck has been using cannabis medically on a daily basis for 20 years to help manage anxiety and work-related stress. He considers himself a high-functioning consumer. “It allows you to absorb some of the daily incidents that are happening to you. As you move through the day and you are managing people, it’s a series of ups and downs and loops and arounds, and when you mix clients in with it, it’s even more complicated," he said. "So I think cannabis use helps me maintain a level head so that I’m not overreacting or underreacting. It definitely makes me more tolerant.”
Achieving better people skills is especially important for those working in professions where success lies in attaining a strong connection with the customer.
We spoke with Zac Smith, who’s been a masseuse for 16 years and in 2016 started Travelling Hands Massage, a company offering cannabis-infused massages in the San Diego and LA counties. Smith said that using cannabis himself has helped him forge better connections with his clients, because it helps him become more empathic and better relate to what they’re feeling. And since he and his team started using a low-THC, high-CBD oil with their patients, results improved greatly. “My techniques haven’t changed in the past two to three years, the only real difference is this oil,” he told Civilized.
Just like any situation where two people interact, work relations are still relations. And when there’s a specific need for two or more people to reach a strong connection of trust for that professional relationship to thrive, THC can be of great value.
As an ethnographic study commissioned by the Canadian Senate states: “One of the 'simple pleasures' that marijuana enhances is socializing with others. Marijuana is useful for social situations because it helps 'break the ice,' 'bring people closer together,' and create 'something of a camaraderie between users.'"